Sounders will make the playoffs today with a win, that simple. They know what has to be done and they can do it. Real Salt Lake is out of the playoff race and has been for a few games but those guys are playing for their jobs. They haven't played well and with how fickle MLS sides are, every player on that roster is expendable. RSL hosted Municipal Tuesday and put out an almost entirely Best XI. A few players are missing today and some of the elder statesman on the Utah side may get a rest for this one. The Sounders have everyone back, while Valdez is questionable for 90 minutes, the fact is he is a go. He will run through a wall for this game and he'll be on the field. All this means that RSL should be very, very afraid.
The claret and cobalt always love to bunker and counter and being on the road it makes all the more likely. Players like Devon Sandoval, Olmes Garcia and Sebastian Jamie are deadly on the counter. They each bring a unique skill set with hold up play, passing, and speed but each one has the ability to make the one play required to make magic and bring home the long goal in a 1-0 victory. A player like Javier Morales makes the counter even harder to defend with the ability to play the perfect ball from 50 yards out. Should all of this scare you? No.
Kyle Beckerman. The player who I would steal from RSL, if I could steal a player. A true #6 and while he's lost a step the past few years he is still the rock for this side. He makes the bunker system work with the ability to steal possession and quickly release the ball to one of those guys above. He tracks runners and plays the passing lanes with an efficiency rivaled by only a few in MLS. A matchup in the midfield between Beckerman and Ozzie is one of the best to watch in North America but it won't be happening today. On Decision Day the claret and cobalt will be their dreadlock hero, who picked up a yellow and an accumulated suspension last week. Luke Mulholland played the full 90 on Tuesday but should be a go with Jordan Allen sliding back from AM to CDM or Stertzer sliding in next to Mulholland for today. Either player is a major step back for RSL and will leave the midfield likely uncontrollable for them, a scary proposition on the road.
I think you see Javier Morales dropped from the lineup with Stertzer making an appearance as Mulholland's partner. Sebastian Jamie slides into the attacking midfield instead of Morales. The lineup will lack speed and teeth but will look to foul to prevent the Sounders from tearing them apart as Oba and Deuce slide back.
RSL has traditionally had a stellar backline but this year they've been a bit questionable. Jamison Olave has lost a step and will get beat 50% of the time guaranteed by Clintfemi. Olave may not even play because of injury/turf/fatigue/I have a job next year. Tony Beltran has become more of an offensive necessity because of the lack of offense this year, meaning he leaves the left wing open for Ivanschitz today. LB is likely not Phillips but Mansally, who didn't play Tuesday. Again a newer player, will foul to prevent the winger from beating him down the line, a good sign for Friberg/Valdez/Pappa/Neagle on the right. If Olave goes it'll be Aaron Maund next to him, if not they could go with any combination of young players. Likely Maund and Vasquez. If it is option two, the backline will be three guys playing for their jobs and one veteran who has lost his concern in defending.
The Rave Green have every reason to play for their lives and jobs but importantly they have the playoffs. If this was three weeks ago, it would be a trap game but at home in front of 50,000+ with the playoff spot on the line the Sounders will play like they haven't played since the early weeks of the season. This one will be a drubbing and a scoreline CenturyLink Field has seen before, 4-0. RSL is missing too many, or could be at least, and they haven't showed fight or skill this year. Jeff Cassar is not a tactical mastermind or close to it. This game will probably not be fair to RSL but that's okay, this game isn't about fairness, it's about taking what is rightfully ours.